Jan. 6 panel deepens inquiry of Trump Cabinet members
WASHINGTON — The House Jan. 6 committee said Sunday that it will interview more former Cabinet secretaries and is prepared to subpoena conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, who’s married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as part of its investigation of the U.S. Capitol riot and Donald Trump’s role.
Lawmakers said they are deepening their inquiry after eight hearings in June and July, with plans to interview additional witnesses and reconvening in September to resume laying out their findings to the public.
“We anticipate talking to additional members of the president’s Cabinet,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair. “We anticipate talking to additional members of his campaign.”
Cheney, R-Wyo., did not identify Trump administration officials who might come forward, but the committee has previously made clear its interest in speaking with those believed to have considered invoking a constitutional process in the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office after the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, when hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s election.
The committee has aired testimony from former Attorney General William Barr, who said he told Trump that widespread voter fraud claims had “zero basis.”
In Thursday’s hearing, the committee played testimony from then-Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, who said he urged Trump to call a Cabinet meeting to discuss an orderly transition of power.
Other Cabinet members have indicated they may
have important details to share.
Betsy DeVos, the education secretary at the time, previously told USA Today that she raised with Vice President Mike Pence the question whether the Cabinet should consider invoking the 25th Amendment, which would have required the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet to agree that the president could no longer fulfill his duties.
DeVos, in her resignation letter on Jan. 7, 2021, blamed Trump for inciting the mob.
On the same day that DeVos resigned, Elaine Chao quit as transportation secretary. Chao is married to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Mike Pompeo, then secretary of state who is considering a 2024 presidential run, and Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s treasury secretary, also were reported to have discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment, according to Jonathan Karl of ABC News in his book “Betrayal.”
“The floodgates have opened,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., regarding the next phase of its investigation.
Committee members also hope to learn more
about Ginni Thomas’ effort to keep Trump in office and the potential conflicts of interest for Clarence Thomas as a result of Jan. 6 cases that have come before the Supreme Court. The committee sent a letter to Ginni Thomas last month seeking an interview, Cheney said.
Thomas communicated with people in Trump’s orbit ahead of the 2021 attack and also on the day of the insurrection.
“We certainly hope that she will agree to come in voluntarily,” Cheney said. “But the committee is fully prepared to contemplate a subpoena if she does not.”
Cheney also said that while the panel hasn’t decided whether to make a criminal referral regarding Trump to the Justice Department, “that’s absolutely something we’re looking at.”
Added Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.: “I certainly think there’s evidence of crimes and I think it goes all the way up to Donald Trump.”
Cheney spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” and “Fox News Sunday”; Kinzinger appeared on ABC’s “This Week”; and Luria was on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”